Last year I was approached by a corporate client of mine. I’d previously photographed his visual branding portraits in the studio for a new business website. He told me he was getting married in Lapland, Finland and needed a wedding photographer for his second wedding celebration back home in the UK afterwards. He assumed I would not be interested in travelling to Finland! Here is my account of how I prepared for their Wedding photography Lapland, planning and costing and technical’.
My client was to be married in January 2017, just 4 days after New Year. This is the coldest and darkest time in the Arctic circle. Temperatures during this period hit an all time low of -30 to-45. The sun, never rises above the horizon line. There are just three hours of daylight each day, before total darkness again.
Throughout my life, I’ve have a ‘never say no’ approach. I throw myself into all kinds of projects knowing I’ll find the means to figure it out, somehow. This would be my first opportunity to shoot outside the UK as a professional photographer and I was totally up for the challenge. Here I share my Wedding Photography Lapland – planning, costing and technical with you. This article may help other photographers shooting in the Arctic for the first time or maybe you are planning a wedding out there yourself? This will help you better plan.
Many clients opt for a in-resort photographer. It is cost-effective and these photographers understand the locations and climate better than none, however, something you cannot do is get to know them before hand. Much better to meet your photographer, test relationships, practise shots, plan and know the personality of your photographer in the UK, prior to your wedding. You establish comfort levels, share with them, dialog, jokes, common stuff, so that on the day they are just like another member of the wedding party. But also on that same day they are a tried, tested and comfortable approach; not also forgetting a technical and creative professional ready to capture every part of your day from start to end. And you have an agreed and detailed plan in place.
Your wedding imaging is going to last a lifetime. Weddings are moments in time when we stop and take stock of our lives. They are large events when we celebrate the happiness of life and family and people around us. We continue to refer back to these moments for years to come, a life time. The memories start to fade immediately and then that’s when your images start to take over and come alive. They provide beautiful creative visual impact and stimulus often all over our homes from walls to book cases, forever on display.
Why do I need a wedding photography plan?
For the client, it’s clear to understand what can be achieved in a very cold, dark sub-zero conditions is dramatically different to that of a summer wedding staged in warm and light conditions in the UK. You will need to revisit your expectations, consider what’s important to you and work closely with your photographer.
For the wedding photographer, It’s clear to understand, whilst a client may have set budget expectations of you, it is important to thoroughly cost and research prior to final sign off on pricing. There is a tendency to jump in quickly and agree a price for the ‘glory’ of that awesome shoot, for the experience and the portfolio work. But before you commit, ensure you have properly researched and costed it.
Without careful planning and information gathering couples risk wasting time and money. Poor planning and costing can result is missed capture and photographs that should have been taken, lost forever. In extremely cold climates we have to move faster to capture shots, as it’s just too cold to hang around and so planning is even more key. Extreme cold plays games with equipment. It can be easily damaged, slow or just stop working and photo shoots at an end abruptly simply because the right equipment is not in place.
A plan makes life easy and fair to all. Photographers can often forget that clients don’t think through their agenda as a ‘shoot’ agenda. Photographers can become angry with clients as a result when it’s simply a lack of understanding on both sides. It’s the responsibility of the photographer to make clear all the implications and suggest a plan. It’s also important not to commit to unreasonable expectations no matter how insistent the client is. Why set yourself up to fail? If it can’t be done, it can’t be done, but be clear and up front to why.
Photographers research time:-
I spent three times as long as a normal UK shoot in researching. There was the consideration of shoot time and daylight hours, extreme conditions and how will the equipment behave? Do I need additional support/ assistants/ kit/ clothing? Working out times of flights, travelling to and from the airport, transfers in resort, hanging around time, preparation in resort, accommodation, currency, sustenance, wedding locations and brief of couple, etc. I found my questions went back and forth to my client constantly.This all takes time out of the working day. Hours of time overall. The more you do, the better the shoot, the less stressful and more informed you become.
Costs of photographing in Finland, Arctic Circle:-
These are the cost areas I discovered and considered before quoting. You might include some within your pricing and others the client will pick up. A clear list will help you both better understand. Some areas you will compromise on.
- Preparation time will be three times as long as preparing for a UK wedding, mine was. This includes additional and constant emails for information to what the client provides and what is expected from the photographer. Understanding their agenda which is much more detailed now they are flying outside of the UK possibly taking a wedding party of guests with them. From planning just one day, can become plans for up to 4 as was mine. If they are booking your flights and accommodation, ensuring you have copies of such and understanding the whole logistic of the trip and not just the shoot and day.
- Time when you can’t work – Flying to Finland, meant I was out of the business for 4 days in total. That’s a day travelling with time to prepare, then the wedding day, a spare day because the flight could not be taken until the fourth day so 1 wedding = 4 days, on this occasion.
- Extra cost to your business insurance if your cover is not worldwide, for example.
- Travel insurance, domestic cover, easy to forget but this insures you on the plane and in resort.
- The hire of additional cameras and flash units. Because I was photographing in extreme cold conditions, equipment can respond very differently. This might mean damage or slower reaction of your equipment. Batteries can slow down or just stop in cold climates. Cameras have to be kept at a constant ambient temperature. This meant I needed more of them, in case of failure. Taking a camera from hot to cold conditions can crack a sensor. Taking a camera from cold to hot conditions can cause condensation to occur. You have to prepare for all: so more kit, more shoot bags and back ups of everything.
- More shoot bags = an assistant. If not agreed within price then its necessary to cost one in. With an assistant it is also the cost of flight and accommodation and sustenance as well. This massively impacts on your price, however I would not have captured half of the images and events of the day without one. Moving quickly between a hot church (+18) to a cold outside Nordic late afternoon (-45), inside to the bar (+5-10) and then outside again to the Ice Hotel (-5) fluid shooting would have been impossible without an assistant carrying two bags and handing and swapping cameras to me.
- Increased baggage allowance, due to taking kit and will your trust it all in the hull or take some of it in hand luggage?
- Fuel to the airport and airport parking.
- Transfer to your accommodation in resort and throughout your stay.
- Food and drink.
- Extra clothing and gloves, hats, protective layers. Photographers stand around much longer outside and generally in limited locations during a wedding shoot than most. Therefore standing around you will be colder and will need to be better insulated than your guests. Example, waiting for the bride outside the chapel in -45 degrees. She’s due by sleigh ride any moment and so you hang around not to miss that shot. In these climates you are cold in seconds, not so much your body but your hands, face and feet. You could be outside for 15 minutes, in extremely cold sub-zero temperatures, barely moving before she arrives. When the bride arrives she only spends seconds with you before she is inside. In Nordic conditions you need ski wear, snow boots and very good gloves. So does your assistant.
- Currency and the cost of exchange rate.
- The cost of living, drinking beer in Finland was hugely expensive, but you will need a drink or two after your shoot. I suggest a good credit card.
- Do you require a new passport? My assistant’s had virtually ran out and we had to check with the embassy on-line to whether he could still travel on it or to apply for a new one. It’s important to consider all the above and then decide a £cost plan between client and photographer and who is responsible for what? To take responsibility and illustrate it all upfront to your client illustrates professionalism and ensures you eradicate any possible misunderstanding, embarrassment and additional financial implications. It keeps client relationships and stress levels balanced and ensures your clients look happy when you are developing that relationship and trying you very best to photograph them.